Human Rights Watch UK has today written a letter to David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, condemning the Memorandum of Understanding signed last year between Britain and Ethiopia.
The letter opens warning that “diplomatic promises are insufficient to prevent torture” before going on to outline the fact that torture is widely used both “in the course of interrogations”, and “as a form of punishment”.
Here is an extract from the latter section:
“Methods of torture include forcing people to strip and subjecting them to repeated and severe kicking and beatings with sticks, electric cables, rifle butts, iron bars, and other instruments, sometimes at gunpoint; tying the individual’s hands and feet and suspending the person upside down and beating them; tying bottles of water to men’s testicles; and forcing detainees to run or crawl barefoot over sharp gravel for several hours at a time. Human Rights Watch has also documented cases of rape of women and girls detained in military barracks in Somali region.
Other patterns of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by Ethiopian military (Ethiopian National Defence Force) and police forces include summary or extrajudicial executions, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, indiscriminate attacks, and rape and sexual violence against civilians. Detainees in police and military custody often lack access to legal counsel, medical care, and family members and are routinely subjected to lengthy pre-charge and pre-trial detention in violation of Ethiopian and international law.”
The letter then makes reference to the role of Ethiopia in the North African Rendition Process, an ongoing barbarity that HRW documented in this 2007 report.
The open letter closes with these words:
“In conclusion, Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned that the UK-Ethiopia MoU will trigger an attempt by the UK to return individuals to a country known to have a serious record of torture and mistreatment of detainees by security forces, in violation of the UK’s legal obligations under UK and international law. We strongly urge you to refrain from implementing the agreement and deporting individuals to Ethiopia, where they will face a serious risk of torture and other abuse.”
They also posted online a report to accompany the letter, which you can read here.
It took the foreign office just under three weeks to respond to my letter regarding Burma. If they have that turnaround time for me, a lowly human rights hack, then they will surely respond quicker to HRW.
We wait and watch with interest…